About Us


150 million (1 out of every 2) Americans now classified as poor, new poor or near poor—chances are, the person to your right or your left at the checkout counter is seesawing near the poverty line. ENDING POVERTY: America’s Silent Spaces is Tavis Smiley Foundation’s four year poverty initiative to alleviate poverty in America with a national civic engagement and communication program. The objectives are to build social capital that helps families and individuals living at or below the poverty line earn living wages, gain access to improved housing and healthcare, and lead lives of respect, dignity and opportunity.

ENDING POVERTY: America’s Silent Spaces seeks to
humanize and demystify polarizing issues in the media; move people to action;
and introduce innovative ways to utilize journalism, media, social media and
technology in engaging audiences in a public dialogue about our country’s
economic insecurity and the real faces of poverty.


Our mission is to create the public and political will to end poverty by empowering individuals to exercise their personal and political power for change. We plan to engage the media and one million people to become a part of the solution through donations, volunteering, job creation, improved health conditions and academic achievement. With everyone’s help, we believe that poverty in America can be reduced by 2018.

Our Inspiration

“I choose to identify with the underprivileged, I choose to identify with the poor, I choose to give my life for the hungry, I choose to give my life for those who have been left out of the sunlight of opportunity. . .This is the way I’m going. If it means suffering a little bit, I’m going that way. If it means sacrificing, I’m going that way. If it means dying for them, I’m going that way, because I heard a voice saying ‘DO SOMETHING FOR OTHERS.’”

-Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

In November 1967, Dr. King and members of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) organized a Poor People’s Campaign to address issues of economic justice and housing for the poor in the United States. King referred to the Poor People’s Campaign as the “second phase” of the civil rights struggle, and he proposed lobbying for an “Economic Bill of Rights” and confronting Congress for its “hostility to the poor” and for appropriating “military funds with alacrity and generosity” but “poverty funds with miserliness.” After King’s assassination on April 4, 1968, the King family and SCLC decided to proceed with the campaign to honor Dr. King’s memory. On May 12, 1968, the first wave of demonstrators arrived on the National Mall and set up a temporary camp in what became known as Resurrection City. The campaign lasted until June 19, 1968.

In 2018, we will mark the 50th anniversary of the Poor People’s Campaign. In the years leading up to that date, through Ending Poverty: America’s Silent Spaces, we will educate and enlighten Americans about the impoverished conditions of our brothers and sisters; we will empower fellow citizens to fight back against the stigmatization, marginalization and demonization of America’s growing poor population; and we will narrow the economic gap that plagues our great nation.






Deeply concerned about the plight of unemployed,
underemployed and anxiously employed Americans, Tavis Smiley and Cornel West
embarked on an 18-city bus tour in August 2011 to raise awareness via multiple
public media platforms. Smiley hosted four nationally televised poverty-centric
conversations on PBS and C-SPAN, created a regular poverty feature on his
Smiley & West show, mobilized over 50,000 concerned citizens in 45 cities,
and has given countless interviews to national and local mainstream media
nationally. His efforts have generated 2.5 billion impressions since 2011
(Poverty Infographic).  We have seen remarkable and measurable
success with our outreach efforts. From 2007 to 2010, mainstream media outlets
increased lead story coverage about poverty from .08 to .25 percent. We believe
there is momentum for real change, and we seek to expand our program over the
next four years to increase engagement and further close the gap in media




Poverty Broadcasts

Since 2011, Tavis Smiley has convened several panels of thought leaders and advocates to explore how to restore prosperity in America.

Vision for A New America
I Made Visible: Women and Children in Poverty
Remaking America I
The Poverty Tour: A Call to Conscience




Too Important To Fail

TOO IMPORTANT TO FAIL is a PBS special were Tavis investigates the root causes of the increased dropout rate among teenagers, specifically among Black teenage males, as well as what can be done and is being done to reverse this. Read more…

Just listen to me, “I really didn’t like school until I came to Promise Academy,” says Jamill Jackson, a student at the Roberts Vaux Promise Academy in Philadelphia. “I really didn’t wake up until high school.”